Believe it or not, Holy Week is upon us again! We begin this very special and important time in the life of the Church this Sunday with Palm Sunday. If you have not ever attended the services of Holy Week, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to make attendance your highest priority. These services will be a life-changing event. I know all to well that the world does not stop for our worship- in fact, we live in an age where not even Sunday morning is sacred, with all sorts of activities and events competing for time. These sacred and holy days mark the event of the passion and resurrection of Our Lord, and as such are central to our faith. To miss these sacred days is to ignore Christ’s saving work of salvation on the cross.
This year we will have a special treat at the Easter Vigil- we will Baptize Carter Burroughs, son of Hilary and Michael Burroughs. Hilary and Michael are long time parishioners and are excited to share this important event in their life on such a special and holy night- be sure not to miss the opportunity to come and support Carter.
There are way too many people to thank for the hours of work that go into this week- but Holy Week would not be possible without the dedicated and faithful people giving much of themselves to our Lord and to this parish family- to all who are working to make this week Holy and special- I tip my Berretta to you all!
With love and prayers,
Your servant in Jesus Christ
Low mass beginning at 8:00am (nursery provided/ no incense)
Children’s Education beginning at 9:30am
Solemn High Mass beginning at 10:30am
(Passion) Palm Sunday begins Holy Week. The 10:30 service begins on the courtyard lawn (the 8:00am service begins in the Church and will not use incense, at the 10:30 incense will be used with the church being vented). Once gathered on the lawn the priest will bless and hand out palm fronds, and then following prayers and the reading of the Gospel of St. Matthew, a procession forms and moves through the courtyard and to the door of the Church, the faithful following, all singing “Ride On, Ride On”. All of this is done to remember and symbolize Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem when crowds gathered and laid palm fronds and cloaks on the road and shouted “Hosanna in the highest!” as Jesus entered Jerusalem right before his Passion.
After a brief stop at the door to offer a prayer we enter the Nave singing “All Glory Laud and Honor” and the service continues in a joyous manner up until the Gospel, at which time in the stead of the priest and altar party coming out into the Nave to read the Gospel, the Church enacts a “Passion Play” with people from the congregation taking their places throughout the Church as the voices of different characters in the Gospel passage. The congregation as a whole becomes the voice of the crowd.
On this Sunday there is a severe transition in the ‘mood’ of the Liturgy. We begin in the courtyard, palm fronds in hand, praising Jesus Christ and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and rejoicing in the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and then by the time of the Gospel reading, we are crying out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” This Sunday almost every human emotion is expressed and felt, and our journey toward Easter begins in earnest.
It is customary to take the blessed Palm Fronds you receive on Palm Sunday home and place them on or near items of devotion, (such as behind a cross) as a reminder of the day and a symbol of our Lord’s victory- and this is perfectly fine and encouraged. The remaining Palm fronds are stored, dried and burned on the following Mardi Gras to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday.
Solemn High Mass beginning at 6:00pm (Nursery Provided)
Maundy Thursday begins the Triduum Sacrum, the sacred three days, of the Passion and Resurrection. The first remembrance of the day is the love of Jesus for His people. In our tradition this day is commonly called ‘Maundy Thursday’. This from the Latin word “Mandatum”, which translates- Command. This is directly from the Gospel reading for the night; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (St. John 13. 34 RSV)
There is a ritual on this night that manifests this ‘new commandment.’ The priest washes the feet of the faithful as a sign and symbol of this command to love and as a showing of servant hood- the form of love Christ asks of us.
Foot washing has its roots in the Old Testament, it was done in preparation for martial rituals, and it was also a part of the ritual ablutions (washing) of the high priest of the Temple. Jesus Himself washes the feet of the Apostles (John 13:3-5) to prepare them for their ordination.
The Institution of the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper is the next remembrance- a good deal of the music points to this celebration, and we will also celebrate the Holy Eucharist. A procession forms after the post communion prayer and the Blessed Sacrament is taken by solemn procession to the altar of repose. You will notice that the altar of repose is adorned with flowers and candles, all of which signify the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament.
It is at this point the last remembrance of the night occurs. The altar party returns to the Sanctuary having placed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar of repose, and as the choir sings a penitential psalm, the lights are dimmed and the altar is stripped bare. This signifies Jesus’ arrest and eminent crucifixion. This part of the service is intended to be uncomfortable, in that we are reenacting that arrest of Our Lord. Once the altar is stripped bare, and after a time of silence, the priest will leave, and the congregation may then leave in silence.
The Blessed Sacrament will remain on the side altar until the beginning of the Good Friday service, and the faithful are encouraged to come and spend time in prayer and reflection at the Altar of Repose (the church will remain lit and open for this purpose).
Maundy Thursday is a very intimate service, and one that reminds us of the joys of Jesus in His new commandment of love and the Sacrament of the altar He left to His Church, and the beginning of the agony of Jesus as He is taken away to die on the cross.
Solemn Liturgy of the Day beginning at 12:05pm
Holy Friday, commonly and almost universally called Good Friday, is the day the Church remembers the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
The solemn service of the day is unique. The color of the day is Black and there is a serious and mournful tone to the entire liturgy. The Liturgy has several components. One is the chanting of the ancient collects (formal prayers) that remember our sins and iniquities before God. These are ancient prayers that have been a part of the Good Friday liturgy for many centuries. There is also a good bit of ‘liturgical gymnastics’ during these collects as we stand at points and then during each and every collect are bidden to ‘bend the knee,’ so we stand and kneel many times. If you are not able to do so, you are welcomed to remain kneeling for the entirety of the collects.
The Passion narrative is chanted from Saint John’s Gospel. The Gospel is chanted by the choir and makes for a very emotional and thought provoking event. In many ways, the Gospel comes alive as it is acted out in chant with the different characters.
After the Passion Gospel, a crucifix is carried out by the priest and placed in front of the people. After placing the crucifix on its stand, the priest kneels in front of the Crucifix three times, one for each time Our Lord was mocked; then he will kiss the feet of the corpus and spend a few minutes in devotion.
The priest completing his veneration, the faithful are invited and encouraged to come forward and do likewise. Some will kneel or genuflect three times on the way to the cross, and others will walk straight up. Some will kiss the cross, while others may spend a brief moment standing before the cross. There is no right or wrong way to venerate the cross…people may do what they feel comfortable with.
The point is to spend a moment in reflection and devotion in front of the symbol of our Salvation, contemplating the love Jesus Christ has for the world.
During the veneration the choir will sing the Divine Reproaches, which remind us of all Our Lord has done for us, and our ingratitude towards Him as well. This can be disturbing for some, but it rings true through the ages and is important to hear on this day.
After the veneration of the cross, the altar party will go in procession to collect the reserve sacrament, and then those who wish can participate in the Mass of the Pre-sanctified. We will consume the Reserved Sacrament from Maundy Thursday. The service then ends in silence as we await the glorious resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on the Great and Holy Vigil of Easter.
THE GREAT & HOLY VIGIL OF EASTER
Solemn High Mass beginning at 7:15pm
with the Baptism of Carter Burroughs
The Easter Vigil is ancient in origin and is commonly held to be the most important service of the Church Year. The service marks the official transition from Lent to Easter.
The Easter Vigil at Saint John’s begins in the courtyard of the Church at sunset (7:15) gathered around the holy fire. A fire is made for each Easter Vigil and symbolizes the victory of life over death…light over darkness. Once all of the Faithful are gathered around the fire, the priest blesses the fire using Holy Water and ancient prayers. The coals for the incense are taken from the fire and blessed, and finally, fire is taken and used to light the Pascal Candle (the very large candle used at Baptisms and Funerals).
The Pascal Candle, also called the Christ Candle represents and symbolizes Christ’s victory over death and new and eternal life in Jesus Christ. It is also symbolic of the Pillar of Cloud that led the Israelites by day and the Pillar of Fire that led them by night. Once the Pascal candle is lit, it is then blessed with another ancient formula and ritual. First, a cross is carved in the Candle and as are the numerals for the current year, then on top and bottom of the cross the Greek A (Alpha) and Ω(Omega) are cut to symbolize Christ as the first and last, the beginning and the end. Then five grains of incense are inserted onto the cross and into the candle to represent the five wounds of Christ in His passion.
While the priest does all of this, these words are prayed:
“Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending. To Christ belongs all time and all the ages: to Christ belongs glory and dominion now and forever. Amen.”
From the fire the faithful will process into the Church, following the Pascal Candle, themselves holding lit candles while the words “The Light of Christ” are sung three times along the way.
Once in the Church, the Exultet is sung in the darkness with the cantor standing in the light of the Pascal Candle. The Exultet is an ancient proclamation of Easter. It is one of the most stirring and beautiful chants of the church, and if you are to truly celebrate Easter- it is not to be missed!
After the Exultet, the Church is still in darkness, with only the Pascal Candle and the individual people’s candles being lit. In the darkness, we listen to three lessons that recall the history of our Salvation.
At the end of the lessons, the priest and altar party move to the Baptismal font for the Baptisms (this year we will be baptizing Carter Burroughs- son of Hilary & Michael).
The Baptisms occur in the darkness as well- a very stirring and moving event. After the Baptisms, the priest changes from violet to white vestments and the Easter invitation is issued- “Alleluia Christ is Risen!” After which, the Gloria (Glory to God in the Highest) is sung for the first time in over forty days. Bells are rung, the torches on the altar are lit, and Easter will have arrived in grand and fitting fashion.
The rest of the service continues in a royal and joyous fashion. A special sermon is preached on this night- written in the 300’s by Saint John Chrysostom- it is considered to be the best sermon ever preached; so much so that it is read on this night the world over as it has been for nearly a thousand years.
Low mass beginning at 8:00pm (nursery provided/ no incense)
Easter Egg Hunt, Flowering of the Cross & Festive Tea beginning at 9:30pm
Solemn High Mass beginning at 10:30am
The celebration of Easter Day begins this year with a low mass at 8:00am (Nursery Provided). This is a said service (Rite I) with no incense or hymns.
At 9:30am, people begin gathering for the flowering of the Cross. All individuals and families are invited and encouraged to bring flowers from your garden and home, (some people will wrap them in wet paper towels or other means to keep them moist) and then place them in the ‘chicken wire’ on the cross. The Flowering cross springs from an old pious tradition that holds the Cross Jesus was crucified upon was a Dogwood tree and that it began to flower upon Our Lord’s resurrection- symbolizing life coming from death and Christ’s victory over the grave. We usually take a parish photo with the Cross around 10:15 and then move it into the Nave. The flowering cross is a great place to take your families Easter photo.
At 9:30 am we hold our traditional Easter Egg hunt. This is a sight to behold! Each year we hide around 1,000 eggs and then at the appointed time, the children burst forth from the parish house and run roughshod over the grounds. It is a heartwarming sight, and you are guaranteed to laugh at the antics of our children. The Easter Egg hunt ends with an festive Tea given by the ladies of the parish.
The 10:30 mass begins with the blessing of the flowering cross, and then explodes into solemn and joy filled praise and thanksgiving. The music is always exquisite and not to be missed. The service is Saint John’s at her finest.